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Jean-Michel Brankart and Nadia Pinardi

Abstract

The Levantine Intermediate Water (LIW) is an important water mass for the overall hydrology of the Mediterranean Sea and there are open questions connected with the possible long-term variability of its physical characteristics. This paper is dedicated to the analysis and the interpretation of the LIW long-term variations over the last 50 years. It is based on data analysis and model simulations. On the one hand, new temperature and salinity gridded data of interannual and decadal anomalies have been produced from existing historical datasets. On the other hand, a long-term primitive equation model simulation has been generated, to be compared to the observational reconstructions.

Results indicate that the major feature of both datasets (observations and model) is an intense cooling of the LIW (0.24°–0.28°C at 200-m depth) at the beginning of the 1980s (winters 1981 and 1983). Around the Aegean Sea and the Cretan Arc, the amplitude of the cooling is as large as 0.4°C.

The model simulations, forced by the Comprehensive Ocean–Atmosphere Data Set atmospheric fluxes, reproduce the cooling event quite faithfully. The possible processes at the origin of these interannual/decadal variations are discussed. Hypotheses are proposed and tested against observations. In particular it is shown that, over the period of interest, the major part of the LIW interannual/decadal variability has been directly forced by anomalies in the surface heat budget of the Eastern Mediterranean.

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